Alone

I’m sitting in silence, the most complete a silence can get in this apartment—only the soft hum of the refrigerator and the whir of laptop and file server fans and the clacking sound of my own typing breaking the stillness. It’s so still, so quiet.

I’m alone.

On Skype, Sean’s status is green for online, and so is Kathryn’s. They’re here, but not really. Sean is at William’s, and Kathryn is hundreds of miles away from me, where she always is. Earlier I typed at length into Sean’s window about a story idea I am working on, but he didn’t respond. He and William are likely in a game. Kathryn is quiet, but available: she spoke first, and we spent some happy moments imagining what we might do if we were actually in the same room. I would like to watch The Last Unicorn with her. It’s been on my mind lately, and all weekend I’ve been listening to the soundtrack, and tonight I browsed screen captures and quotations and fan art and was brought nearly to tears several times.

Today was aimless; I did laundry and read and fed myself. I had planned to read Bloodline, the new Star Wars novel, but instead I read fan fiction. Both times I ventured out for food, the day was bright and beautiful, the sun blinding and the trees vividly green. The air was warm but not hot and there was a cool breeze and it was perfect. When I got home the first time I opened all the blinds and saw that our patio bistro set is completely coated in pollen.

I’ve been opening two of the blinds in the sunroom every day, for the peace lily. I just searched Google for “funeral flowers” because I couldn’t remember what it was called, and I scrolled past dozens of arrangements that were so obviously meant to stand near or on a casket, and then I started seeing names spelled out in flowers: Lee, Granma, Mum. So many Mums. And finally, Dad.

The peace lily was given to us for Dad’s memorial. We received several beautiful arrangements and plants. When I first came home, after he died, after the memorial, I didn’t bring any of them with me. I was sure I would kill it. But I soon went back to Kentucky because I wasn’t okay, and I stayed a little while longer, and when I came home again I brought the peace lily too. It’s big, and it looks good on my dining table in the sunroom.

There’s so little stability now. But I can take care of this plant, at least. Right now, it’s just me and it.

I’m glad I gave Dad a backrub.

Not the one I gave him in the hospital, while he was staring wide-eyed at nothing, mouth open, breaths forced into him by a machine.

The one from the week before, when he sat up on his own on his couch and I sat next to him and rubbed his shoulders and back like I’d done so many times before, all my life, since I was a kid.

Don’t read this

This post is about how my dad died and it is not pretty and you should probably just avoid it.


Dad’s death was not quiet and calm and in his sleep. He stopped being able to breathe on his own so they put him on a CPAP–not a respirator, he didn’t want that. But the CPAP was the only thing allowing him to breathe, forcing air into him. And he stayed like that for hours while we all gathered to say goodbye. By the time we were all there he had been lying there staring at nothing for I don’t know how long, mouth gaping open. He never blinked. I don’t know if he knew the dog was there but I hope he did.

Then we had them give him morphine and take the CPAP off. And then he died. But it was an interminable death. Long moments would pass without breathing and then he would gasp again. He was still staring at nothing with his mouth gaping open but his tongue would move. Nothing else moved. When he gasped those breaths there was a pained croaking sound. AJ told him he could rest now. I didn’t say anything, except “I love you” a few times.

I don’t know how long it took but it was so horrible. Mom and AJ and Ben and Connor and I stayed in the room and everyone else stayed outside. I’m glad Logan stayed outside.

I feel like he was already gone by the time we gave him the morphine. But I still feel like we killed him.

After

“It’s so bright out!” Mom said as we walked out onto the pedestrian bridge leading from the hospital to the parking structure. “It seems like it should be nighttime.” She expressed the sentiment again later, as she turned the Explorer onto Conn Terrace towards Limestone. “It should just be dark.”

We took Limestone to Waller, crossed the railroad tracks, and turned left onto Broadway. It was late afternoon and the sun was directly in our eyes. “That folder in the visor is all Dad stuff, medical information and the handicapped sign,” Mom said. “You can take that down and flip the visor down. And we can just throw it all away when we get home.”

Broadway turned into Harrodsburg Road as we made our way back to Nicholasville, a route Mom has taken innumerable times over the past week, and months, and years. I unlocked my phone and told Sean and Kathryn that it was over and we were going home.

“There’s a place in Brannon Crossing called Legacy or something. We should call them,” Mom said. “I don’t know what to do. I don’t really like funerals.”

We finally got to the house and the couch was still at the end of the driveway. “If it’s still there in a couple days, we’ll take it to the dump,” Mom said. We went inside to where the adjustable bed from hospice, made up fresh that afternoon and never used, sat in the newly rearranged and cleaned family room. I put the folder on the kitchen table and dragged Mom’s luggage to her bedroom, where I threw all the syringes and masks and tubing and other medical supplies into a bag and then hid that bag away in the small guest bedroom, laid Mom’s clothes out on her bed, and put away the shirt and pants Dad was supposed to come home in.

“You’ve done everything,” Mom said, even though she was simultaneously putting away the clothes I’d laid out. She turned to the closet. “And there’s all his shirts,” and her voice almost turned into a wail, but she hugged me and drew a deep breath. “When Lee passed, family from Oklahoma came and took all the man stuff away,” she said. “I think that would be good. We can put everything in bags and give it to Cedar Lake Lodge. Do you think I should ask the boys if they want anything first?” I agreed that this was probably the best idea. “I just feel like I’m full of adrenaline,” Mom said. “Like I have to do something right now. But I don’t have to do anything right now.”

We left her bedroom and went into the kitchen and started dumping all of Dad’s medicines into the trash.

Drowning

For months now I’ve sort of let myself be carried by the rapids, buffeted by surging waves of work and family and personal changes, and dragged below the surface by a relentless undertow of depression. I’ve felt more and more helpless and more and more incapable, barely managing to function some days. The occasions that I’ve felt energetic and powerful have been fleetingly rare. I spend much of my time trying to distract myself, and the rest of the time hating how little I’m accomplishing.

My life doesn’t seem all that difficult. I am so lucky in so many ways. I have so many wonderful people who love me. I have a nice home. I have a good job. My unhappiness stems from feeling that I could be more than I am, and my apparent inability to do anything about it. My impatience to get there fast, and the trouble I have with planning and executing long-term strategies for personal growth.

The world feels like a blur around me; I see snatches of information here and there but I can’t seem to grasp things the way I used to. I don’t do anything, but I feel like I have no time.

Then I lost a lifelong friend, very suddenly, to cancer.

And then my mother told me, “If you have anything you want to say to your dad, you should come home soon,” because he’s got cancer too. It’s not the throat cancer again; this time it’s small cell lung cancer, and he’s in stage 4.

I am trying to allow myself to feel this hurt. I am trying not to discount the things I am going through. I am trying to accept that I can’t just handle everything. I’m trying, and it’s really hard. Because I feel like I should just be able to deal with it. Like I should be stronger somehow. Like I am being lazy.

I need to step back, and breathe, and feel, and forgive myself, somehow.

Short trip

Well, I’ll be heading back to Augusta today. I don’t feel like saying “back home”, because I don’t really have a home. Not even this place–even though I feel perfectly comfortable here, I don’t live here. I don’t have a life here.

I don’t have a life anywhere anymore, it feels like.

But I’m not as depressed as I have been. Things will be better. I just need to be patient and frugal.

Today will be an interesting matter of timing. I need to visit Grandma on my way out of town, then pick David up at the Atlanta airport at 7:30. Hopefully I will time it all so David won’t have to wait. I don’t mind if I’m the one who has to wait. I can always find something to do ;>

Dad’s making me breakfast, and I promised Connor I would come see him this morning, so I’d better get my shower and start packing up.

Dad

A lot of times when I want to say something that’s important to me, one of two things happens: either I decide that I’ll do it justice later, that I just want to get it out for now; or I don’t write it at all.

Right now I want to write about my father, and how he has taken up cooking in his later life, and how he always cooks me breakfast while I’m visiting, and how today he made me a steak for dinner, and when I was finished eating it he thought I might like a baked potato, and when I was almost done with that he remembered that he had some broccoli from the garden that he could steam…and when I was finally finishing this extended dinner, he mentioned that I could eat the stuffed mushrooms in the freezer later on if I wanted a snack.

My father hasn’t always been like this. He hasn’t really cooked much at all until recently; Mom usually handled all that, and she still does. They both cook whatever they feel like: Mom will typically make something big, like a huge vat of spaghetti, or a pot of beef stew, or a roast (all of which she has made while I’ve been here, and today she was thawing chicken to fry), and Dad will get a hankering for something and make it regardless of what Mom’s cooking (like the steaks he made today).

Mom loves it when Dad decides to make breakfast, because he makes the best breakfast. Eggs over easy, toast, hash browns, and sausage or bacon. He’ll make the eggs however you want them, and he makes really good cheesy scrambled eggs, but I’ve always preferred over easy because I like to sop up the yolks with my toast. Dad remembered and made them over easy for me the other day. He’s going to make me breakfast tomorrow, too. I can’t wait.

I think my father cooks for me because he wants to share something with me. For the same reason, he likes to talk with me about his inventions. Today he took me down to the workshop to show me the method he contrived to make screws for one of his tools. The screws he’d bought ready-made cost twelve dollars apiece…now he makes the screws himself, and they each cost roughly five cents. Dad talked me through each step in the process, and what problems he’d run into and how he’d solved them. Like me, like us all, he was looking for affirmation and appreciation, and I hope I gave him enough. (I worry that I wasn’t very enthusiastic due to the fact that I was falling into a food coma.)

I love my dad. But yet again I haven’t written well enough to do my subject justice.